Cyber-safety Research Adopted Internationally

TAMPA, Fla.  (July 29, 2009) – University of South Florida Professor Ilene Berson has been researching cyber-safety for several years and her findings have found their way to New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia in the form of digital materials and curricula adopted for young people in those countries.  Students in USF’s College of Education have had an opportunity to pilot the resources that have been developed and contribute to the international efforts to foster safety among children in digital environments.


Berson recently appeared on Radio New Zealand as part of a panel discussing Hector’s World, a collection of high-quality educational resources designed to help keep children between the ages of three and ten safe when they are online.  Her research has been used in the development and enhancement of this project, which is available at


“Many countries are focusing on internet safety and media literacy with a comprehensive, community-based approach that includes a developmental perspective in preparing future cybercitizens across all grade levels,” she said. "In the United States we need to support policies and programs that promote a systemic approach to children’s safety online at school and at home beginning with our youngest students and continuing throughout their education.”


Berson noted the most important thing parents and teachers should remember is that they don’t have to be information-technology experts to integrate activities that teach the basics of cyber ethics.  


"Just as we teach children to be good citizens of their communities we can teach them to be responsible citizens of cyberspace,” she said.  “Many online resources are available for integrating key ideas associated with cyber-safety into the school curriculum and fostering responsible citizenship on the Internet. A good place to start is a discussion that centers on this tenet: in cyberspace – just as in our classrooms and on the playground – we need to respect the rights of others. Indeed, integrating cyber-citizenship activities into everyday educational experiences can, and should, be a natural and seamless way to prepare children for the digital world."


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 224 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.